Let's agree with the State Department stiffs who argue that preventing an Iranian-sparked nuclear war in Southwest Asia and Europe takes political, diplomatic, military and economic precedence over stopping Assad's dirty war.
However, Syria and Iran connect, intimately. Assad's struggling regime depends upon an Iranian umbilical of economic largesse, ammunition and security advisers. Fighters from Iran's Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, reportedly buttress Assad's militias. A pro-Assad shabiha militia participated in the Houla slaughter.
U.N. observers reported that 49 of the dead were children and 34 were women. Tank shells killed some, but others were stabbed to death, the same technique used by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and Hutu genocidaires in Rwanda. Shabiha translate as "thugs."
Perhaps the path to curbing Iran's thugs runs through Syria. Syria's rebellion has encouraged Iran's harried dissidents. So Tehran's dictators are making sure Assad prevails and demonstrates that brutal repression works.
Despite repeated condemnations, despite sanctions, despite ceaseless talks -- repression is working. Why? The thugs running Tehran and Damascus don't believe anyone, or any group, has the guts to stop them, to stop them from acquiring nukes and committing mass murder.
"Major Western powers" was the BBC's description of the cadre of nations who promised to expel diplomats in the wake of Houla. It is a direct quote. During the BBC's World War II and Cold War heyday, the phrase had the iron ring of authority. In the context of Syria's ongoing bloodbath, Iran's nuclear quest and feckless Western posturing, it merely sounds ironic.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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